As a real estate broker, creating an environment that promotes safety and security spans a broad spectrum of precautions. Providing resources and education to your agents to ensure they stay safe in the field is high on a broker’s list. Protecting the office and the virtual aspects of business are also crucial for ensuring brokerage success. Taking proactive steps to protect your business can make all the difference.
Combine Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design practices, which are globally recognized for keeping office buildings and spaces safe, with security systems and processes to enhance safety and provide peace of mind.
Law Enforcement Security Assessment
Contact your local police department’s crime prevention department and request a free security assessment or survey. Officers will conduct an inspection, advise on locks and lighting, identify vulnerabilities, and offer advice to resolve them. Mark your calendar to have this assessment performed annually, at the least.
Complete an Inventory
Create a full inventory of all equipment, valuables, furniture and supplies. If there is a burglary, fire, flood or natural disaster, you must be able to document and prove ownership of equipment, supplies, furniture and other valuables. You can find free Inventory checklists online.
Install Security Cameras and High-Visibility Signage
Cameras are a primary component of the CPTED principle mentioned above. They should be installed outside the building at entry points and inside the building in common areas, such as the reception and conference room. Security cameras are proven to document, monitor and deter criminal activity.
Posting highly visible warning signage that points to the fact that surveillance is active is also an effective deterrent. Most criminals avoid surveillance potential.
According to the New York Times, cameras are more effective deterrents for crimes such as car burglaries and property theft than for violent personal crimes, which makes them a good option for in and around the office.
Security doors at the office’s entrances allow you to control who comes in and out, which prevents unauthorized entry. You’ll want to ensure that the doors are professionally installed, and ask that the installer reinforce the frame and jamb.
Install a Comprehensive Security and Alarm System
You want a security system that’s responsive and allows you some control, even when you’re not on site. Make sure your system includes:
- Motion detectors
- Fire/smoke/CO/radon/leak detectors
- Two-way communication, allowing you to speak to the intruders or visitors
- A notification protocol so that you receive an alert when the system detects threats, including an intruder or security breach
- Video recording that includes night vision and video storage capabilities
- The ability to monitor the office remotely so that you can alert authorities in case of emergency
Use Smart Locks and Access Control Systems
Smart locks and access control systems can help you control who has access to your office and when. Companies like Brivo have created access control systems that can be operated from a mobile phone so you can remotely open doors and monitor traffic through cloud-based technology. These new developments eliminate keys, including fobs and cards, and allow agents, managers, office staff members, and vendors and contractors to access the office via their smartphones.
You don’t have to worry about deactivating lost keycards or fobs or getting them back if agents and staffers leave the brokerage, either. Everything can be done through a smart device, allowing for a quick and easy way to prevent unauthorized access.
Lighting and Landscaping
CPTED principles recommend using lighting and landscaping to enhance security: Proper lighting and well-maintained landscaping can help deter burglars and other intruders. A well-lit parking lot also keeps your agents and their vehicles safe at night. Another CPTED principle states that an office space that looks occupied is unlikely to attract attention from those who don’t have the best of intentions.
Landscaping is just as important as lighting. Trim back any trees or bushes that could act as cover for someone with ill intentions. Pay special attention to entryways, windows and the parking lot.
Conduct Employee and Contractor Background Checks
Security very often starts with knowing a bit about who you’re bringing into the environment of your brokerage. Agents, staffers and contractors have varying levels of access, and they’re all into and out of your building. Use background checks to screen for criminal activity and other red flags before hiring or allowing personnel and contractors access to your physical office, brokerage financial data and client information.
Secure Valuables and Sensitive Information
Keep important documents, files and other valuables in a secure safe or cabinet. Also, ensure that sensitive client information is protected through secure cloud-based data storage and encryption. Limit who has access to the data as well.
Implement a Visitor Management System
Establish a system for visitors to your office, such as requiring them to sign in and wear visitor badges. This can help you track who is in your office and ensure that only authorized individuals have access.
Make sure your agents and staff members are aware of the system and hold them accountable for its implementation.
Train Employees and Agents on Security Protocol
Make sure that the people who can access your building understand how everything operates and what your expectations are when it comes to security. Start by creating a comprehensive security plan, which should outline procedures for handling various security-related situations such as break-ins, fires and medical emergencies.
Make sure agents and employees have all of the up-to-date information they need on access to the building, security features, protocols and rules you’ve established as well.
Any staff members who might oversee various security matters need to know what to expect. Make sure they have essential information like:
- How often security audits are performed and how to conduct them
- Important contact information for law enforcement, security experts and security systems
- An understanding of how window and door locks work and how to check them
- A how-to on responding to security breaches
- A how-to on training new staffers to lock doors and windows, allowing visitors access to the building, and what to do in case of an emergency
- The rules for after-hours security protocols, including parking lot security
Make sure training is ongoing and drills are regularly scheduled so that employees and agents know what to do in case of a security breach or an emergency, including natural and manmade disasters.
As with all plans and protocols, make sure to review and update them regularly to remain effective.
Plan for National Disasters
According to FEMA, 75% of businesses will be out of business in two years if they don’t have a disaster plan during an emergency, says Coni Meyers, disaster preparedness expert & founder of CKM Solutions Group.
Ensure that your business is prepared and can quickly recover from a natural disaster crisis. To do so, you’ll want to work with an expert to implement a disaster recovery plan. You want the plan to include issues including structural damage, IT concerns, and any other disruptions. Working with a professional is advised so that you don’t miss any important concerns.
Meyers also recommends that businesses have emergency and disaster kits in the office to include first-aid supplies, water, food and additional necessities. Visit ready.gov to learn more about what to include in a disaster kit.
Make a Plan for Workplace Violence
Unfortunately, the potential for workplace violence cannot be ignored in today’s world. You want to plan for the worst while continuing to hope for the best, which means it’s important to establish and train your agents and employees on what to do should they encounter workplace violence.
Enlist the help of a security expert to establish drills for mass shootings and other forms of workplace violence, and make sure you have a plan written out and available to everyone. Establish the specifics on what to do if a disgruntled contractor, client, agent or other party enters the business, and make sure all of your agents and staff are comfortable executing necessary plans.
No matter what, safety comes first and prevention often leads to the best-possible outcome. With plans in place and adequate training, many potential issues can be avoided.